The History and Origins of Golf
19 September 2022
In Scotland, men play golf as a form of exercise frequently. If a man performed this workout once or twice a week, he would live 10 years longer.
The sport of golf was first played in Scotland’s eastern shore, not far from the country’s capital city of Edinburgh. In those early games, participants would use a bent stick or club to try to hit a stone over sand dunes and along tracks. In the fifteenth century, Scotland made preparations to protect itself from the “Auld Enemy” once more. But because of the nation’s intense love of golf, many people neglected their military training to the point where King James II of Scotland outlawed the activity.
Even though the law was largely disregarded, it wasn’t until King James IV of Scotland (1473–1513), the first golfing king in history, gave the sport its official endorsement in 1502.
Thanks to this royal support, the game’s popularity swiftly expanded throughout 16th-century Europe. The game was first played in England by King Charles I, and Mary Queen of Scots (shown to the right) took it to France while she was a student there; the word “caddie” comes from the name of her French military assistants, who were known as cadets.
However, the St Andrews Society of Golfers was not established until 1754 in order to compete in its own yearly championship under Leith’s rules.
The first-ever 18-hole course was built in 1764 at St. Andrews, setting the now-recognized benchmark for the sport. St. Andrews was recognized with the title “Royal & Ancient” by King William IV in 1834, solidifying its position as the top golf club in the world along with its magnificent course.
Golfers at the time played with hand-crafted wooden clubs, typically made of beech with ash or hazel shafts, and compressed feather balls covered in stitched horse hide.
Golf developed at a rapid pace during the 19th century as the British Empire’s power spread around the globe. The Royal Blackheath (near London) established the first golf club outside of Scotland in 1766. Bangalore, India’s golf club was the first outside of Britain (1820). Others soon followed, including the Adelaide (1870), Royal Montreal (1873), Cape Town (1885), St Andrew’s of New York (1888), and Royal Hong Kong. The Royal Curragh, Ireland, was founded in 1856. (1889).